At the Zoo by Katherine Maurer

At the Zoo

A row of solitary big cats—
most-wanted lineup of the rare,
the vanished, four hundred left in the wild
or fifty. The Amur leopard, past the genetic threshold
of hopelessness, sleeps. People walk by
in smiles and distraction, camera straps,
double strollers overflowing with children.
Look at the big kitty, they say
to the children. He’s a sleepy big kitty.
The leopard will never see

another leopard. But cats are patient
and suited to loneliness, to a sky that could be over
any continent, to falling into half-sleep
and feeling the ground slip. The leopard suspects
the average density of the universe—
one hydrogen atom in the volume of a barrel—
and that all things are drifting farther apart and may never
regather. His side moves, marking time
as he breathes, spreading and regathering
the fluff behind his front leg
as quietly as ripples in a lake
on some lifeless planet.














Amur Leopard
Boris the Amur Leopard. Photo courtesy the Miller Park Zoo, Bloomington, Illinois.





















About the Author

Katherine Maurer received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her poetry has been published in journals including Poetry Northwest, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Sycamore Review, and in 2014, Cave Wall nominated her poem “Field Survey” for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Champaign, Illinois, where she edits textbooks for a living and plays drums in the band Again is Already.